Look back, and smile at perils past.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
As the great Confucius said, “The one who would be in constant happiness must frequently change”. Flow. But we keep looking back, don’t we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present…Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don’t hold on to a few bars of the music. Don’t hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass…
—Anthony de Mello (1931–87) Indian-born American Theologian
To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.
—Martial (40–104) Ancient Roman Latin Poet
I never look back, I look forward.
—Steffi Graf (b.1969) German Tennis Player, Philanthropist
The moments of the past do not remain still; they retain in our memory the motion which drew them towards the future, towards a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train.
—Marcel Proust (1871–1922) French Novelist
The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.
—Henri Bergson (1859–1941) French Philosopher, Author
The past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays, nor just for tomorrow, but in the here and now. Keep moving and forget the post-mortems. And remember, no one can get the jump on the future.
—Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) American Biographer, Novelist, Socialist
The past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.
—John Berger (1926–2017) English Art Critic, Novelist
We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, knowing that once it was all that was humanly possible.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
The past is never dead, it is not even past.
—William Faulkner (1897–1962) American Novelist
The past always looks better than it was; it’s only pleasant because it isn’t here.
—Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936) American Author, Writer, Humorist
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
Never look for the birds of this year in the nests of the last.
—Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) Spanish Novelist
One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. To remain in touch with the past requires a love of memory. To remain in touch with the past requires a constant imaginative effort.
—Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) French Philosopher, Psychoanalyst, Poet
That past which is so presumptuously brought forward as a precedent for the present, was itself founded on some past that went before it.
—Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766–1817) French Woman of Letters
Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity.
—John Adams (1735–1826) American Head of State, Lawyer
The past but lives in written words: a thousand ages were blank if books had not evoked their ghosts, and kept the pale unbodied shades to warn us from fleshless lips.
—Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803–73) British Novelist, Poet, Politician
The past is the best prophet of the future.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.
—Domenico Cieri (b.1954) Mexican Author, Aphorist
Study the past, if you would define the future.
—Confucius (551–479 BCE) Chinese Philosopher
The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.
—H. G. Wells (1866–1946) English Novelist, Historian, Social Thinker
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.
—Frederick Douglass (1817–95) American Abolitionist, Author, Editor, Diplomat, Political leader
The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memorized glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past.
—Mary Webb (1881–1927) English Novelist, Poet, Writer
Better by far you should forget and smile, than that you should remember and be sad.
—Christina Rossetti (1830–94) English Poet, Hymn Writer
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
—Steve Jobs (1955–2011) American Entrepreneur, Businessperson
The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.
—Ivern Ball (1926–92) American Writer, Aphorist
Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the answer.
—Gloria Steinem (b.1934) American Feminist, Journalist, Social Activist, Political Activist
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.
—Charles J. Givens (1941–98) American Self-Help Writer
The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet
Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) English Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist
Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) German Philosopher, Scholar, Writer
The past is at least secure.
—Daniel Webster (1782–1852) American Statesman, Lawyer
We live in the present, we dream of the future, but we learn eternal truths from the past.
—Soong Mei-ling (1898–2003) Taiwanese First Lady, Politician, Painter
Once you uncover the history of this pattern and trace its roots, you will see that your reaction in the present moment is really a reaction from the past, a shadow character’s attempt to protect you from reexperiencing an old emotional wound, which instead sabotages you in the present.
—Connie Zweig (b.1949) American Minister, Columnist, Psychotherapist
Nothing impresses the mind with a deeper feeling of loneliness than to tread the silent and deserted scene of former flow and pageant.
—Washington Irving (1783–1859) American Author, Essayist, Biographer, Historian
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
—George Orwell (1903–50) English Novelist, Journalist
The free world must not prove itself worthy of its own past.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) American Head of State, Military Leader
If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time.
—Russell Hoban (b.1925) American Children’s Books Writer, Novelist, Writer
Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have — so spend it wisely.
The people who get into trouble in our company are those who carry around the anchor of the past.
—Jack Welch (b.1935) American Businessperson
The illusion that times that were are better than those that are has probably pervaded all ages.
—Horace Greeley (1811–72) American Elected Rep, Politician, Reformer, Editor
The good old days were never that good, believe me. The good new days are today, and better days are coming tomorrow. Our greatest songs are still unsung.
—Hubert Humphrey (1911–78) American Head of State, Politician
It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) American Novelist
The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.
—Max Beerbohm (1872–1956) British Essayist, Caricaturist, Novelist
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
—John Wayne (1907–79) American Actor, Director, Producer
Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.
—Oprah Winfrey (b.1954) American TV Personality
God has no power over the past except to cover it with oblivion.
—Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) Roman Scholar, Encyclopedist
It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.
—Mignon McLaughlin (1913–83) American Journalist, Author
The past is for us, but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the present.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
Here lies my past, Goodbye I have kissed it; Thank you kids, I wouldn’t have missed it.
—Ogden Nash (1902–71) American Writer of Sophisticated Light Verse
Whatever obstacles appear in your path, put your head down and get past them. Those obstacles aren’t real. They’re just God’s way of testing you. He’s asking you, “Do you want to make it or not?”
—Russell Simmons (b.1957) American Music Promoter
Age and sorrow have the gift of reading the future by the past.
—Frederic William Farrar (1831–1903) English Clergyman, Writer
The one charm of the past is that it is the past.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet
When I wanted to understand what is happening today, I try to decide what will happen tomorrow; I look back, a page of history is worth a volume of logic.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841–1935) American Jurist, Author
Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.
—Marva Collins (b.1936) American Educator
We need not destroy the past. It is gone.
—John Cage (1912–92) American Composer, Philosopher, Poet, Artist
What’s past is prologue.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
In the maxim of the past you cannot go anywhere.
—Maxim Gorky (1868–1936) Russian Writer, Dramatist, Political Activist, Novelist